The following stories may or may not be hoaxes (with the exception of the last one, which is almost definitely a hoax), but they’re worth mention in this series because they involve claims of time travel or time superimposition that are really freaking bizarre.
Doing the Time Warp at Versailles
In August 1901, two English schoolmarms traveled to Paris. Like countless tourists before and after them, they ended up at Versailles. They gawked and chattered their way to the Petit Trianon, enjoying the mild weather and wondering what they would have for tea.
Yawn. None of this would be worth mentioning if, several months later, these two spinsters hadn’t agreed that there had been something not quite right about the Petit Trianon on that summer day.
Charlotte Moberly, 55, was the first principal of St. Hugh’s College, a women’s university at Oxford. Eleanor Jourdain, 37, taught at the college. Though they weren’t close friends, both were spinsters with a fondness for travel, so they agreed to share their summer holiday. Neither had ever been to Versailles.
Their visit to the palace grounds was perfectly ordinary until they began walking down a narrow, tree-shaded path between Marie Antoinette’s theatre and the little teahouse known as the Belvedere. Though they didn’t know it at the time, this shadowed pathway had been destroyed immediately after Marie Antoinette’s execution in 1794.
En route to the Petit Trianon, the ladies took a wrong turn. They found themselves on a little lane bordered by trees, meadows, and quaint farm buildings. A woman was shaking a cloth out the window of a little cottage. As they continued, the atmosphere become strangely oppressive. Miss Moberly noted a peculiar stillness in the air, as though the trees around them had transformed into “a wood worked in tapestry”. They saw several men they assumed to be gardeners, though they were all wearing long coats and tri-cornered hats for no apparent reason. Soon they came to a gazebo surrounded by untended grass. A man sat on the ground nearby, wearing a cloak and a large hat that shaded his rough, “repulsive” complexion. Neither woman dared ask him for directions to the Petit Trianon.
Miss Moberly intuitively sensed that they shouldn’t take the path on their left, and this was confirmed seconds later when a young man in a sombrero burst out of the trees and told them to take the path on their right.
Turning right, the ladies passed over a small, rustic bridge over a little ravine. On the other side, beside a meadow, they finally reached the little square country house that was the Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s beloved refuge from court life. A woman was sketching in the English-style garden. She wore a shady hat over her fluffy, fair hair and an unusual summer dress with a low-cut bodice and very full skirt – not at all the style in the summer of 1901.
To their disappointment, a wedding party was already touring the house and they would not be able to enter it. They took a little carriage back to the Hotel des Reservoirs and had their tea.
Months later, as they discussed their visit to the Petit Trianon, Miss Jourdain mentioned that she hadn’t seen the sketching lady. They also shared their impressions of the “dreamy oppressiveness” they experienced on the lane that led to the house. This spurred them to compare notes and do some research. They reached this conclusion: “The result of this showed us that everything we had described by word and in writing before the research began was in agreement with the conditions of the place in 1789, many of which had not persisted later than that date.” The odd-looking clothes worn by the eight people they had seen were typical morning dress in 1789. The woods, the bridge, and the grotto with its little waterfall no longer existed.
They concluded that the sinister-looking man near the gazebo had been the spectre of the Comte de Vaudreuil, a smallpox-scarred Creole friend of the queen. Later, Miss Moberly recognized the fair-haired sketching woman from a picture drawn by Wertmuller – it was Marie Antoinette herself.
They were able to account for all of the phantom scenery they had seen; it existed in 1789. But the little rustic bridge was not featured in any of the maps or descriptions they studied.
Then, years later, they learned that in 1903 the hand-drawn map of the architect who had designed the gardens around the Petit Trianon, Richard Mique, was discovered stashed away in the chimney of a house in Montmorency, once the residence of Rousseau. How it ended up there no one knew, but the map showed the little bridge just where Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain recalled crossing it in 1901 – over a century after it was destroyed.
Despite the ladies’ sterling academic reputations, the world of paranormal research was not impressed. In 1950, W.H. Salter of the Society for Psychical Research re-examined their notes and compared them to their published account of the adventure, and he concluded they had gleaned the details not from their 1901 visit, but from historical research. Everything they documented was already known to history and available to any diligent researcher.
Since then, numerous academics have tackled the adventure at Versailles, offering a rainbow of intriguing theories without really getting to the bottom of what happened.
Ivan Sanderson Visits France
We’ll be running into Ivan T. Sanderson again in the story of the Philadelphia Experiment; he claimed that his friend Morris K. Jessup feared for his safety towards the end of his life. But for now, let’s look at Sanderson’s own enigmatic brush with time travel.
The first thing you should know about him is that even though Sanderson was a pre-eminent, well-respected naturalist and author in his day, he was also into a lot of seriously weird stuff. He coined the word “cryptozoology“, and perhaps the name “Bermuda Triangle”. He identified the diet of the Yeti, photographed “rods” many years before Jose Escamilla discovered them, investigated the Flatwoods UFO case, witnessed poltergeist activity in Sumatra, and gave his stamp of approval to the Patterson-Gimlin film. Most notoriously, as recounted in Mike Dash’s Borderlands, he concluded that huge three-toed tracks found on a beach in Clearwater, Florida, in 1948 had probably been made by a giant penguin driven from its natural habitat by some unknown catastrophe. In 1988, 15 years after Sanderson’s death, a local man admitted that he and a friend had made the tracks with a pair of cast-iron boots they constructed.
Yet in his book More “Things” (Pyramid Books, 1969), Sanderson had the chutzpah to claim he had never taken any interest in the occult, because he was far too busy trying to keep up with the more pragmatic facts of life. So you might want to go ahead and take the following story with a grain of salt roughly the size of Utah.
The setting is Haiti in the 1930s. Sanderson was conducting a biological survey there, living in the village of Pont Beudet. One night he, his wife Alma, and his assistant Fred decided to drive to Lake Azuei in the Sandersons‘ car. When it became hopelessly mired in the mud of an unpaved road, they had to continue on foot in the moonlight. Fred trudged ahead of the couple.
Suddenly, the Sandersons found themselves on what appeared to be the main street of a very peculiar village. It was a cobblestoned street, lined with Elizabethan buildings lit by lanterns and candles. Strangely, even though the place was strongly reminiscent of sixteenth-century England, both Sandersons were certain that the village was actually French. They noted an odd stillness in the air, and began to feel dizzy.
As soon as Fred (oblivious to the time slip) noticed the Sandersons were in a daze far behind him, he backtracked and offered them cigarettes. That’s when the village vanished, never to be seen again.
Whitley Strieber‘s Drive Through Nowhere
As if it’s not strange enough to be be abducted by aliens umpteen times and to meditate nightly with alien houseguests, author Whitley Strieber has experienced several “time slips” and even met up with time travelers. Most of his time slips involved visions of the past, but he has also spontaneously traveled into the future on at least one occasion. So has his psychic friend Starfire Tor.
The most notable time slip Strieber has discussed publicly occurred sometime before he wrote his third book on his alien abduction experiences, sometime in the late ’80s or early ’90s. He was driving one of his young son’s friends from his cabin in upstate New York to a diner on Route 17 in New Jersey. They had made this trip many times before, as the boy often stayed with the Steribers and was usually driven back to New York City by his father. The diner was their usual meeting place. To reach it, Strieber took a certain exit ramp and backtracked several hundred yards. In this part of New Jersey Route 17 is lined with strip malls and fast food joints, so the scenery was mundane and very familiar to Strieber and his son’s friend.
On this occasion, a cloudy day, Strieber and the boy spotted the father’s vehicle in the parking lot of the diner as they drove past towards the exit ramp. But when Strieber took what he thought was his usual exit, he found himself on an entirely unfamiliar highway. Unlike 17, it was deserted and eerily quiet – not a vehicle or business in sight. Tall concrete walls flanked either side of this highway for a short distance. They ended up on a silent residential street shadowed by a canopy of trees. Just like the strange highway, the place was devoid of life. Not one resident was walking the dog or tending to the large, immaculate lawns. Weirdly, the day had become sunny in a matter of seconds.
The houses were the spookiest part. Single-story and boxlike, made of tan stone, two of the dwellings had enormous snake designs carved into their facades.
Strieber and the boy became deeply uneasy. They reached another exit leading to an ordinary, busy highway – but instead of Route 17, it was Route 80, an estimated twenty-minute drive from the diner. They had been in the serpent house neighborhood for far less than twenty minutes.
Later, after searching the area thoroughly, Strieber realized the bizarre neighborhood didn’t exist. Neither did the exit that led him to Route 80. The boy and his father also searched for the street in vain. Strieber feels that he and his son’s friend were spontaneously dropped into the future.
Dr. Bruce Goldberg: On a Clear Day You Can See Whatever
We’ve all heard about past life regression. A housewife goes to a hypnotherapist to help her quit smoking or something, and the next thing you know she’s recalling her previous incarnation as an Irish chick who just happens to be a lot like her old neighbor, or as Garth Brooks’ wife, or as Superman. But you may not have heard about future life progression. That’s the specialty of Dr. Bruce Goldberg.
Piecing together the stories of numerous patients who have undergone future life progression, Goldberg has come up with a road map of the near future, and it looks something like this:
Beginning in this century, humanity will experience a Jesus jump of unprecedented peace, health, and technological advancement. War will be nonexistent for at least 300 years. By the 25th century, all diseases will be nearly eradicated and you’ll be able to learn anything you need to know simply by swallowing a “knowledge pill”. Apparently, most people will live and work in communal, self-sustaining biospheres within huge glass pyramids. At death, they can transfer their consciousnesses to computers.
Of course, this technically isn’t time travel, because Goldberg’s patients don’t go anywhere. They just sit in a comfortable chair and pay him money.
The Famous Manuscript of John Palifox Key
In 2001, a woman posted a time-slip story at about.com. She described driving through a state in the northern U.S. and inexplicably being transported to a jungle land populated by intelligent, bi-pedal lizards and gnome-like humanoids that were harvesting triangular fruit. “I swear this is a true story…”
Soon, a user by the names of Jon Grantly and Ferabo began posting intriguing responses to the story. He referred the woman to the “famous manuscript” of John Palifox Key, titled Proofs of My Return. He wrote, “Everything in your story matches what Key and others (Jacques Bergier, Serge Hutin, etc.) indicate for a doorway into another realm… Those of us interested in this phenomena, and we are many, know of a quite famous–or at least often reported–portal in a remote area of the state of Michigan, so if by chance you were in Montmorency County, Michigan, you’re experience [sic] is doubly validated. If you can, read John Palifox Key, and let me know where you were.”
In other comments, he offered information about two more portals located in Colorado.
Another user (or more likely, “Jon Grantly” using another identity) chimed in with this: “I can’t believe someone is still passing around the manuscript of John Palifox Key (or reading Serge Hutin, for that matter). Let me know where you found it. You know that about 8 years ago there was a movement to destroy every last copy. Some think it’s dangerous. ”
Maybe it would be dangerous, if it existed. To this day, unwitting anomalists are scouring antiquarian booksellers for this “famous” manuscript, and searching in vain for any evidence that someone by the name of John Palifox Key ever existed in this space-time continuum. Maybe Mr. Grantly can fill us in when he returns from Uqbar.